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‘Asmita Yatra will spark a bigger Dalit stir’

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 12, 2016

340-km padayatra in Gujarat receives support from across society

Having earned the support of a cross-section of society for their 10-day, 340-km rally, participants of Gujarat’s Dalit Asmita Yatra intend to intensify their agitation once the padayatra concludes in Una on Independence Day.

The nearly-300 participants, who began the rally from Ahmedabad on August 5, are protesting the attack on Dalits by cow vigilantes in Una on July 11.

Members of the Dalit community will launch agitations like rail roko (blockading rail routes) and jail bharo (packing the jails), in which leaders from various States will participate, said Jignesh Mevani, a Dalit lawyer-activist who is leading the march. The leaders will also be joined by a team from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University and the mother of Rohit Vemula, a Dalit research scholar from Hyderabad who committed suicide in early 2016. Mevani said on Friday that he was being leading the rally under the “guidance” of former IPS officer Rahul Sharma, activist Praveen Mishra, and Nirjhari, wife of late lawyer Mukul Sinha who represented the 2002 riot victims in courts.

The Ambedkar Association of North America has extended support to the Dalit agitation, apart from human rights groups in Canada, France, Germany, the UK and Portugal, who have expressed solidarity and support, Mevani said. Some of these organisations have also held demonstrations overseas.

Ahmedabad-based Ashok Parmar — a Dalit cobbler who became the face of the Hindutva rioters in 2002 — also joined the march. Among others who have supported the Asmit Yatra include Insaf Foundation, a Muslim organisation.

While people across political parties have been joining the Dalit march, no elected politician has pledged support, Mevani said.

Offer of support

Meanwhile, officials of the Wardha Gandhi Ashram in Maharashtra on Thursday offered asylum to the victims of the Una incident as the perpetrators of the violence still hold considerable clout in the area despite nearly 40 arrests.

Ashram chief Jaywant Mathkar, who led a delegation to Una, offered each family lodging free-of-cost for 25 years, two acres of land, a cow and educational facilities for children. The delegation demanded that the 53,000 acres of land pledged by the Gujarat government during the Bhoodan Movement, be distributed to the Dalits.

The Sarva Seva Sangh of the Akhil Bharatiya Sarvodaya Mandal and the Gujarat Lok Samiti also jointly announced a donation of ₹50,000 to the victims of the violence.

Published on August 12, 2016
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